Gresham Community Club seeks donations to demolish old school, help with community club operations

GRESHAM – The Gresham community is facing the reality their old school building is over 100 years old and it is time to take down the old structure – but that takes money and they need local donors to help them achieve this goal.

The Gresham Community Club is heading up the effort, as the organization owns the school building and they’ve asked for financial support in the endeavor.

According to club representatives, “When the Gresham school closed in 1986, the Centennial School District donated the 1916 school building and the gym, along with two residences, to the Gresham Community Club. Some funds received from the original District 54 have been retained to be used if it ever became necessary to demolish the building. Since that time, members of the organization and community have spent countless hours and many dollars in an effort to maintain the buildings. During this time the community club also sought out alternatives for the use of the 1916 building.

“For several years, the community club hosted junior high tournaments in the gym. It was also used for auctions and community exercise activities. After several years, use of the building declined but the maintenance cost of the building continued.

“The old school was used as a museum when the town held its centennial celebration in 1987. The club spent money to put a secure roof on the building back in the 1990s with an estimated 10-year life. In the early 2000s, metal was placed over the windows as a way to preserve the building after several windows were broken out by vandals. Vandals have continued to break into the building as well as animals finding ways to get inside.

“In the past, the club was contacted by an entrepreneur who thought about ways to repurpose the building into a community space such as a theatre or meeting rooms, but that fell through. We have talked to contractors to see if there was a possibility to turn the building into apartments – because of the extreme cost to renovate the building and the low possibility of getting a return on the investment, that was not a viable alternative. We have talked to salvage companies about trying to save some of the wood, etc., on the interior but have not found anyone interested. Selling the property to a private individual does not seem to be an option as the club does not want the building to end up looking like other old schools in the surrounding area where individuals have failed to maintain the buildings which have turned them into eyesores for their towns.

“Money was spent to complete an asbestos inspection of the building,” community club members say. “That inspection could prove useful if we found another use for the building or if it needed to be demolished. We recently had an asbestos inspection of the roof completed and we will be gathering bids for asbestos removal which would need to be completed before demolition of the building.

“So now it is time to look to the future.”

Community club members say they do not want the building to become a nuisance property which violates the village codes. They are currently in conversation with the village to see if the village would assume the ownership of the property and buildings and cost of maintenance.

Community club members, however, say in a letter to Gresham residents, “the village is concerned about the cost of the demolition of the old building and the burden the cost would place on the taxpayers in the village. Our research shows, however, that nearly all the surrounding towns own and maintain their community centers and we would like the village to take on that responsibility.”

The Gresham Community Club has been named the recipient of a $25,000 donation to demolish the building. If they can raise another $25,000, they would be eligible for an additional $25,000 donation. With the money that has been saved, together with the donations, they would be close to raising the $130,000 needed to remove the asbestos, demolish the building, cover the hole and complete some landscaping. The club got an estimate of $60,000 – back in 2004 – for demolishing the building – so the price has obviously risen dramatically, “and as each year passes, the cost will continue to rise.”

In their message to the residents, the community club members say, “We are hopeful if we can demolish the 1916 building, the village would then assume ownership of the property and begin maintaining the community center and surrounding grounds. This would ease the pressure on the community club and we would be able to continue our mission of helping the youth and seniors in our community. This has been a concern for many years and it is finally time we address the situation rather than kick the can down the road.”

The group has raised more than $12,000 toward the match total needed. They need to raise the remaining $13,000 before Dec. 1. Tax deductible donations may be sent to the Gresham Community Club, PO Box 161, Gresham, NE 68467, or left at the York State Bank branch in Gresham.

The community club is also reaching out for donations to help them with the operations of their community center. The Centennial School District deeded over that property to the community club in the early 1990s and the club has taken on the responsibility of maintaining this property for nearly 30 years. They have installed new furnaces and air conditioners, repaired the roof, painted the entire building, replaced some flooring, purchased new tables and chairs, installed a windbreak on the south side and have done many other smaller projects.

Club members say, “Each year we pay for the insurance on the community center as well as the gym and the 1916 school building. We pay for heating, air conditioning and electricity costs as well as outdoor maintenance. Last year, our annual expenses were $24,358, which included $9,250 for exterior painting. Last year, we had income of approximately $16,359. We have had to dig into money that had been saved for the demolition of the 1916 building. The community club uses fundraisers, memberships and donations to support their efforts and to provide a place for senior citizens, youth groups and other community organizations to meet and conduct their activities. The current building that houses the community center has been a blessing to the Gresham community, a perfect place to hold alumni banquets, annual pancake breakfasts after Memorial Day services, Breakfasts with Santa, Wednesday morning senior coffee, family reunions, wedding receptions, funeral lunches, meetings, etc.”

The village currently pays rent for the space used for the community library.

“We appreciate the generosity of our community club members and other donors,” the club representatives say in a flyer sent to residents. “But our membership is aging and numbers are declining and it is time to think about what we can do to maintain our community gather spot, rather than what we cannot do. We need your support.”

If someone would like to donate money or join the group or help in any way, pertaining to the community center itself, they should reach out to Gresham Community Club board members, or send earmarked donations to the address listed earlier.


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